U.S. Competitors Agree: To Beat the Recession, Spend More On Schools

In America, school funding cuts are the order of the day from coast to coast and north to south. But most of our competitors around the world have embarked on a different road to economic recovery. Investing in education is what’s going to pull them out of the quagmire and move them ahead of the competition (like us) in the future.

That’s the message from a recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an organization of the world’s wealthy nations.

“Our competitors are putting their money where they know it can do the most good,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “This survey backs our position that investing in education is not just good for educators. It’s good for the kids and good for the nation. It’s the way forward.”

The OECD survey includes information from 25 of its 34 member nations. China is not a member.

The United States, which is an OECD member, did not respond to the survey questionnaire. But earlier this year, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released its own survey showing that education funding in the US has gone in the opposite direction from funding in most OECD members. Even counting the federal stimulus funding, 34 states plus the District of Columbia have made cuts in K-12 and early education funding since the economic crisis began, and 43 states have cut higher education, the Center reported.

Also, the report said vocational and higher education institutions in the US have boosted student tuition, making it harder for students to attend.

The OECD survey team got responses from many major US competitors, from Korea and Japan to Mexico and Canada.

OECD found that vocational and higher education is where most OECD members added the most investment, believing that hard economic times and stiffer competition made it all the more important to provide more training.

“In general, governments seem to be rather successful in protecting education spending,” according to the OECD report. “Some countries even have increased funding for specific parts of the education system in order to enhance output and efficiency.”

Only a few countries, under severe economic pressure, have cut funding, the survey report says.

And some of the nations hardest hit by the downturn, such as Ireland and Greece, maintained or increased funding at almost all levels of education because they believe education funding is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

In addition to direct funds to schools and universities, some countries are also providing more financial aid to students so they can get the training they need despite the hard times afflicting their families.


Read the full OECD Report (PDF)